At the end of every season it’s customary to take a moment to pause and reflect on the season just gone.
In a sport where records, past statistics and history are of such massive relevance, reflecting on the newest addition to our team’s history is done often and extensively by many, and with varying results.
In Watford’s case, whereas last season, with its last minute winning goals and gut-wrenching drama, was a season that most could get behind, this season has proven far more difficult for us to maintain a united front as fans.
Last season had clearly defined periods of success and failure, but the current campaign has seemed to dip in and out like a toddler testing to see if the sea is too cold, never quite sure whether to tip over into a full blown promotion push or wallow comfortably outside of the play-offs and all of the associated heartbreak that’s possible within. This indecision and inconsistency has led me to change my views and ideas on our progress and relative success almost on a weekly basis.
Upon seeing players of the quality of Gabrielle Angella, Daniel Tozser and Albert Riera take the field emblazoned with the was-red-now-yellow moose/hart on their breasts, I feel pride, whereas every goal these men in yellow concede in the last 10 minutes of a match causes me to reconsider even watching 11 guys kick a ball around on a Saturday afternoon.
But for every McGugan corner that fails to clear the defender at the near post, there have been moments like the reception for Almen Abdi upon his return from injury, Troy Deeney’s long overdue Bournemouth hat-trick, and going 2-0 up at the Etihad (regrettably I wasn’t there, rather cheering St Albans on to putting 5 goals past a certain Jack Bonham and his Arlesey Town side).
At the start of the season many of those so-called ‘football experts’ claimed that our Wembley disappointment could cause a hangover that may see us struggle this season. While many of us scoffed, buoyed by having signed the loanees despite a transfer embargo, I can’t really argue that this season has shown many of the hallmarks of a hangover.
I’ve had many hangovers in my time and feel that I’d be qualified to say that the feeling after the home matches against Yeovil and Sheffield Wednesday felt not unlike the feeling the day after dragging yourself in at 5 in the morning, ears ringing and coat smelling strongly of tobacco. But if Zola’s last act was one resembling a thundering hangover then Sannino’s first act has been the strong coffee and alka seltzer we desperately needed.
The follicly challenged Italian has certainly helped steady a sinking ship, and has led to unbeaten run upon unbeaten run, but I can’t help but feel that his greatest accomplishment could be just round the corner.
Whereas a wasteful pre-season and the weight of expectation set us up for a fall from the beginning last season, Sannino will whip this squad, and whatever additions arrive over the Summer, into shape. Newly unburdened by that expectation, and probably back to being relegation hot favourites with most of the bookies, we have a blank canvas for next season.
With a shiny new East Stand glimmering in the background I look forward to the back end of the summer, sitting on my red plastic chair, and cheering on those same moose/hart emblazoned shirts, while also periodically shouting expletives at the referee.